Do you know the way to San Jose?
I’m probably the only person under 50 who gets the reference. As a younger man I went through a Bacharach phase. I blame John Zorn. If you want to understand what I’m talking about, check this out
I’ve done this before for RailsConf when it visited my home city of Minneapolis. People liked the format so I’ll adapt for a conference I actually travel to attend. WWDC/AltConf in San Jose.
Who should read this?
People attending WWDC, AltConf or any other conference in San Jose.
This guide is for everything outside of the conference. So here goes:
Whenever I head to a new city for a convention I immediately scope out the following:
- Places to exercise
If these things aren’t interesting to you, this guide will not do you much good.
So let’s begin…
The Convention Area
San Jose is a large city but the downtown area is pretty small. Everything is walkable. Most weeks it’s pretty dead after the office workers head home for the evening. But during WWDC it comes alive and most of the people out in the evening are here for the conference. So feel free to make new friends.
The strip down 1st Street will be hopping with conference goers all week. But there’s plenty of other options nearby (not to mention more elbow room).
Download the WWDC Parties app. Parties aren’t as big of a thing as they were in the past but this is a good way to find out what else is happening. But if you want my advice:
Avoid the parties
Find smaller gatherings to attend. Have audible conversations over good food or some other fun thing to do in San Jose.
My soapbox: My goal for WWDC week is to talk to as many people as possible. I want their thoughts on all the new shiny things Apple announced during the week, and I want to learn how they’re using all the stuff announced last year. Parties at the bars are terrible for this. The venues are loud and crowded. Yelling at someone 2 feet from your face is no way to discuss the possible pitfalls of Marzipan adoption. I may hit up 1 party during the week, but I find my time is better spent at smaller ad-hoc gatherings.
To help combat the madness, I put together an event that will be outdoors with plenty of room to mingle and debate the merits of the next macOS release. There’s also a baseball game nearby :). A meal and 2 drinks are included with the ticket.
To find out what else is going on, download the ConfFriends for WWDC app. It’s a great way to find out what people are doing. And find people to join you for things you want to do.
There aren’t many Breweries downtown but there are a number of places with good beer selections
Original Gravity Public House
OGPH is on the main drag and has good selection of beers. The food menu is sausages and other bar food. I’m told it’s quite good.
ISO Beers doesn’t get a lot of WWDC traffic but I don’t know why. It has a large beer selection, including a bunch of sours, and some tables outside.
Beer lovers should definitely check this place out. 3 Saison’s available, a couple sours mixed with IPA’s and other expected brews.
Protip: try the Barrel Aged Golden before ordering a glass. The whiskey dominated everything else. But all the other beers I tried were excellent.
The locals have chimed in and it turns out there are a bunch of breweries as you head East from downtown.
Protip: check closing times before visiting. Some of the places close at 9 but can sometimes be convinced to stay open if you bring enough people.
In order from downtown
Camino Brewing Not as good as Uproar but they brew some enjoyable beers. It’s bigger than it looks. They have an event center and patio out back.
Clandestine Brewing A bunch of big (high ABV) beers. But the offer smaller glass sizes as options. The Milkshake IPA was very enjoyable.
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Didn’t get to visit but the Hefeweizen they had on tap at Forager was excellent (I don’t like most Hefes).
- Hermitage Brewing
- Strike Brewing
Protip: for the best coffee and a chance to hang out with other Dub Dub’ers Check out where the crew at coffeecoffeecoffee.coffee are going.
Chromatic Cafe is getting some WWDC foot traffic due to some other coffee shops closing. Smaller place with good coffee and espresso drinks and some light breakfast options. Lines can get 4-5 deep but otherwise isn’t super busy. They serve the best coffee in DT.
Voltaire is close by. Thus, it will be busy during prime caffiene consumption times. They have good coffee some unique options. While the coffee is normally good you might want to skip the pour overs during rush times.
Veros is a coffee counter in a food court. Just a bit further than Voltaire but good coffee and less WWDC goers to clog up the line.
New places for 2020 (recommended by a local 3rd Wave coffee professional)
Academic Coffee is a bit East of the conference but has some good stuff. They dive deep into the so-called 3rd Wave estetic. Along with Chromatic, they sling the best in downtown.
Circle A Skateboards
Turns out Circle A Skateshop has legit coffee. Who knew? Good coffee, no milk (oat milk only), no bathroom.
Coming soon to the old B2 space. Other locations have a reputation for Bringing the Floral (whatever that means).
The restaurants downtown are hit or miss. But here are some places I’ve enjoyed and look forward to again.
Back A Yard
Back A Yard comes recommended by multiple SJ WWDC vets. They serve Caribbean food & BBQ. Plebs scoff at me when I say Jerk is BBQ. Back A Yard is my vindication.
The Jerk Pork & Salmon Combo was so good I went back later in the week to get Goat Curry. Both were some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.
Protip: Back A Yard is a gem, but not a secret one. Show up early or expect to wait.
La Victoria Taqueria
Multiple Locations Universally revered by DubDubers and I concur. The over/under for how many times I will visit La Victoria Taqueria and order Tacos al Pastor is 3.5. The tacos contain beans which I didn’t expect but I’m a Minnesotan and wouldn’t know that much about tacos. The Orange sauce is basically crack. After dark they post guards by the door to stop people from stealing bottles of it.
A recommendation from a local. Gombei is in Japantown which is a little ways (but walkable) from downtown. Authentic Japanese food. Like many places in Japantown, it’s cash only.
Hoagie Steak Out
304 S 3rd St San Jose, CA 95112 A recommendation from a local. If your group can’t decide between Cheese Steaks or Korean food, Hoagie Steak Out is your place. I had a cheese steak. It was very good. But I’m not from Philly so I wouldn’t know that much about it. My dinner companions liked their Bibimbap.
San Pedro Market Square
San Pedro Market Square has a bunch of food & drink options and a large patio area. A popular spot to grab dinner and drinks.
A recommendation from a local. Orinchi Ramen is a ways from downtown but worth the trip. Grab a small crew and catch a Lyft. “Best ramen I’ve had outside of Japan” is a review of one my dinner companions.
Protip: Don’t dawdle. It’s a popular spot and they close when they run out of soup. Tables are small so a party of 4 or less will be easiest to get seated.
Another Protip: You can get on their waiting list via their website.
A good choice for lunch. SoFA Market is South of First St (go figure) and has a bunch of independent eateries. If you need to catch up on your greens intake, Stick n Greens is a good way to load up on vegetables.
The NBA Finals (Basketball) and Stanley Cup Playoffs (Hockey) happen during WWDC week. Rookies is probably the best place to watch the games. Plenty of TV’s and standard American Sports Bar fare for food.
Protip for those on a budget: Tech companies often hire Food trucks to hand out food in the area around WWDC and AltConf. Only an (occasionally awkward) conversation with an HR rep is required for payment.
Paper Plane is on the main 1st St drag. It will always be busy. But they have an impressive liquor wall and the bartenders can pick you out some brands you haven’t had before.
Haberdasher has the best cocktails in San Jose and is one of the best cocktail bars I’ve been to anywhere. If your preferred libation is obscure, the bartender probably knows how to make it and has the the crazy ingredients it requires. Pro tip, ask the bartender to make something for you. Last year the bartender took my preference for strong Manhattans and whipped me up something with Rye, Punt e Mas and Luxardo (it was excellent).
Not the best place for beer lovers. The only beer they serve is –– inexplicably –– Hamm’s tall boys.
Places to exercise
My convention mode is a lot of socializing, often around food and drinks. This puts a toll on my calorie intake and my usual introverted self so I’m usually up early and need some exercise to clear my head before a long day of convention-ing.
WestCA has drop-in and weekly memberships. A good selection of weights, strength training machines and treadmills. They open at 5 AM. Early risers (and the jetlagged) rejoice!
I hit up the Guadalupe River Trail pretty frequently during the mornings. It’s mostly uninhabited before 6 AM except for a few homeless people. Morning joggers become more commonplace around 6.
There will be a group run heading out from the Adobe headquarters at 7:15 every day of the conference. More info on the WWDC Parties app.
I’m usually done with my run by this time (I get up stupid early because I’m still operating on Central U.S. time) but this is a good opportunity to meet new people.
P.S. Many thanks to locals and other WWDC Week vets who helped provide suggestions and edits. I stand on the shoulders of giants.